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Speaking via hologram at several locations across France, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the radical left-wing politician who aims to derail the presidential election, told his supporters that victory was within their reach during his last campaign rally on Tuesday evening.

The veteran candidate, who is progressing in the polls and is in third place, has described himself as a political turtle, slow but with the potential to beat the hares to the finish line.

“We have a few days and we can feel our destiny at hand. We know we can push for the most incredible change in political leadership imaginable,” he said in a 90-minute speech that touched on philosophy, literature and a feminist treatise from the 15th century. century. “We must break with the presidential monarchy and establish the sovereignty of the people. Everyone has an individual and personal responsibility for the result on Sunday,” he told them.

Mélenchon, 70, used special technology to “appear” in 12 different places at the same time on Tuesday; the real Mélenchon was in the northern city of Lille, a traditional heartland of the French left, while hologram incarnations appeared in 11 other cities spanning France.

It is a hi-tech gimmick that the leader of the radical La France Insoumise (La France Insoumise), candidate for the third time in a presidential election, used for the first time during his 2017 campaign. campaign team had boasted of having the objective that Mélenchon – the real and the ephemeral – be less than 250 km from every French citizen in metropolitan France.

As the first round of the 2022 presidential election looms this Sunday, Mélenchon is now the left’s only hope of reaching the second round. Support for the dominant left-wing Socialist Party has collapsed, leaving its candidate, Anne Hidalgo, the mayor of Paris, facing a historic low. The Ecology-Green candidate, Yannick Jadot, languishes in sixth place. Emmanuel Macron is at 27%, Marine Le Pen at 23% and Mélenchon at 16.5%, according to the latest Ifop opinion poll.

Mélenchon entered the arena to techno music and the screams of the public, before going through the highlights of his program. He promised to make France non-aligned (by withdrawing from NATO) while condemning the Russian killings in Ukraine, to end France’s dependence on nuclear energy; freezing the price of fuel and basic necessities; lower the retirement age from 62 to 60; introduce a minimum wage of €1,400 per month and fight against noise, air and other pollution. He also promised feminist-friendly measures, including an end to rampant femicide which sees a woman killed by a partner or ex-partner in France every three days.

Power, Mélenchon insisted, had to be with the people and he would govern through the use of citizen referendums, one of the demands of the vests yellow movement.

Mélenchon said he would also end the spread of “malbouffe” (junk food) and bring about what he called the “de-globalization” or re-industrialization of the country. “Don’t tell me we can’t make shoes, hats or jeans here that haven’t been around the world. We can,” he said. The crowd screamed.

“It is not the unemployed who are responsible for unemployment, it is not the sick who are responsible for the health crisis, it is not the poor who are responsible for poverty,” he said.

“If we make it to the second round, we are determined to change the world. This is what we will do if we win this election,” he added.

There have been digs at Macron and far-right Le Pen – both believed to be in the second round. “We see Mme Le Pen with her cats, it bothers me, I only have a cactus, which is not as good for Instagram,” Mélenchon said.

The thousands of people queuing in front of the Grand Palais in Lille were a heterogeneous crowd of all ages and backgrounds, some convinced Melenchonists, others in search of conviction or not.

Mélenchon appears as a hologram in the final push for the French elections |  France
Mélenchon waves to supporters after his speech in Lille, northern France. Photography: Michel Pinler/AP

Marine Dhap, 32, a freelance marketing agent in Lille, said she had voted for Mélenchon before but it was the first time she had seen him. “He is in third place and this week will be decisive. It is positive that he is not very far in the polls so he has every chance of being in the second round. His vision is the best of the left and I like his program which is for a more humane system including a greater sharing of wealth. He also has very good social and green ideas.

Oliver Genty, 62, a former SNCF train driver from the Lille outskirts, said he supported Mélenchon in several elections. “I think he is the only one who is for workers and more for ordinary people than Macron who comes from the world of finance,” he said. “I think he could end up in the second round.” Genty said he regretted there were “too many left-leaning parties” splitting the vote. “I would have preferred him to make an alliance with the Socialists and the Communist Party.” Genty said that in the event of a Le Pen vs. Macron runoff, he would vote for Macron. “I will feel compelled to vote against the far right.”

Fabienne Courmont, 60, a cleaner, said she would struggle to vote for Macron. “I will not vote for Marine Le Pen but the idea that she could win scares me. If I vote, it won’t be for Macron, it will be against her.

Antonio Messana, 51, archivist, Christelle Goffard, 49, sociologist and Julie Vanhoye, 44, unemployed, had traveled from Dunkirk, an hour’s drive away, to see the charismatic leader of the radical left, known for his fiery eloquence.

“I am already convinced by his ideas. He is the only one who gives us hope; he is smart and positive, not like the other candidates. I hope he makes it to the second round. Optimistic,” Messina said.

“I am drawn to his social and ecological ideas, in particular that there should be a fairer sharing of wealth,” Goffard added. “I would like him to talk about women’s equality.”

Vanhoye says she is not yet convinced and hesitates between the communist candidate, Fabien Roussel, or Mélenchon. “I came to listen,” she said.

Jean-Marc, 65, a teacher, said he had previously been a Socialist Party voter but saw no point in voting for a candidate with no luck. “I will vote for him in the first round in the hope that he passes and that we have a real left-right debate in the second. But if Mélenchon reaches the second round, he will have to soften his (radical) positioning to seduce others on the left.

Marthe Bouganim, 27, who works for a human rights association in Lille, came with three girlfriends. “I voted for Mélenchon in 2017 and I feel like there is more team behind him this time. It’s not such a one-man show; he is surrounded by interesting people.

Mélenchon has been campaigning since the fall of 2020, longer than any other presidential candidate, so perhaps it was fatigue that made his speech less incendiary and incendiary than supporters expected. The meeting ended with an interpretation of the Marseillaise.

Manon Aubry, a Mélenchon activist and co-chair of the left-wing parliamentary group in the European Parliament, said Mélenchon was now within the “margin of error” in opinion polls, meaning he had a real chance of winning. advance to the second round. She said the challenge was to mobilize voters in working-class neighborhoods where support for Mélenchon was strong. “Our goal is to show that going to vote can make a difference,” she said.

Mona Rose, 24, a student at Sciences Po in Lille, added: “The majority of young people I know will vote for Mélenchon or not vote at all. She said the idea of ​​another Le Pen runoff against Macron made her “very angry”.

“The more I hear about Mélenchon’s program, the more I feel it strongly. If everyone here convinces a few people around them, he might pass. I will try to do it until Sunday.

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